May 28, 2007

Big 12 breakdown: Oklahoma

A heartbreaking loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl gave Oklahoma its third defeat to end a wild ride. Given the Sooners' road to their fifth appearance in a BCS game, 2006 will go down as arguably Bob Stoops' best coaching job. That's saying something. But it could take a win in Dallas for the Sooners to have a shot at seeing San Antonio and reaching January for another storybook season.

BRIEFLY: Doubters beware

Folks thought Oklahoma was finished with the departure of Rhett Bomar. They were wrong. Bob Stoops smartly didn't lean on Paul Thompson to win games (he attempted 30-plus passes in just four contests) and went to the run 62.7 percent of the time. Adrian Peterson, who didn't carry the ball in seven games, and Allen Patrick each finished with more than 700 yards rushing and Thompson finished sixth in the Big 12 in passing efficiency (142.4) with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Now Thompson is gone, but the pundits are back wondering how the arm of redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, junior Joey Halzle, or freshman Keith Nichol can possibly muster a 10-win season.

"I said it last year when Paul was making the transition back to quarterback that our team is much more capable of helping that position and being a better offense around that position than we were the year before because of the increased experience," Stoops said. "That will, for sure, be the case even more this year."

It's difficult to doubt Stoops, the 2006 Big 12 Coach of the Year, given the results with Thompson and without Peterson half of the season. This quarterback group is arguably the youngest and most inexperienced in Stoops' nine years. But a glance at history reveals a newcomer named Nate Hybl helped to deliver 11 wins in '01. The starting spot remains unsettled heading into training camp, but Stoops insists to give it time. The dress rehearsal against North Texas comes Sept. 1 before Miami rolls into Norman to provide a stiff test.

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